Someday, I’m going to write a book. “Playgrounds of Ireland” is the working title.
I’m sure it will appeal to that especially intrepid traveller, the one whose travel partners think chicken nuggets and fries are gourmet foods and who are best amused on swings, monkey bars, and merry-go-rounds.
How did I spend my last vacation? In the playground. In many playgrounds, actually. All over Ireland.
I could have stayed home and done this, I thought more than once during our three-week holiday. But if I’d done that I wouldn’t be able to share how awesome the playgrounds were. Truly awesome.
Doorly Park, Sligo
Our first visit was to Doorly Park Playground along the banks of the Garavogue River in Sligo, the “Gateway to the Northwest.” It’s in a riverside wetland park that also features a large wooded area with a five-kilometre path looping through it.
Between the park and the playground neither child nor adult would have cause to be bored. For children, a really great climbing net was the highlight, and adults could use the equipment in the “green gym,” rugged versions of adult exercise equipment typically found indoors.
The children thought it was the highlight of Sligo. The real highlight was the dash we made for a beach on the coast, after the rain had stopped and the sun came out. It was 8:30 p.m. and the sun wouldn’t set for another hour and a half.
Active Ennis Tim Smythe Park
Off to Ennis, where we quickly discovered a very different – but equally excellent – playground in the Active Ennis Tim Smythe Park. The Park itself featured sports fields, another “green gym,” a running track, and walking paths, and the playground was no afterthought. There were swings, see-saws, and roundabouts – my favourite – as well as a great climbing tower that included several enclosed twisty slides. Fun for every age!
It was much, much busier than the playground in Sligo was, and we passed the time chatting with locals and visitors alike.
The children thought this playground was the Ennis highlight. The real highlight was trekking over to Miltown Malbay, where thousands of musicians and music-lovers from around the world had descended on the seaside town for the Willie Clancy Summer School. We didn’t go to school, but we did sit in on many of the music sessions held at the town’s 13 pubs, and we also headed to the Armada Hotel in adjacent Spanish Point for some Irish country dancing.
The huge playground was divided into sections suiting younger and older children, and had every kind of swing, slide, and climbing contraption a child could want.
And the children thought this was the highlight of Dublin. The real highlight was the evening we spent in Howth, just north of the city. We combed the beach, chatted with the fishermen on the wharf, and savoured a lovely meal at The Oar House Fish Restaurant.
But the real highlight of the whole trip?
The time we spent together and the gift of seeing Ireland through the eyes of our children.
What about you? Do you read up on the playgrounds before you choose your travel destinations? Do you have a favourite? Is it still worth it to travel with young ones or do you think it’s better to wait till they’re older?